Category Archives: Public Space & Placemaking

Refugee Youth- Why the Silence

The city, known for its diverse population from many countries and cultures, is home to various exemplary youth initiatives that offer social services, cultural programs or sport activities in their respective communities. With a big migrant population and so many vibrant youth initiatives, Friday’s panel on “Youth Migration: Why the Silence” side event held during the Global Conference on Cities and Migration could not have wished for a better setting.

The side event discussed the social and economic risks and opportunities of young migrants and ways on how to improve the social capital and economic integration of youth. Youth in audience had a good chance to listen and learn from best practices and experiences of the distinguished panelists in a discussion guided by Sharmaarke Abdullahi, Programme Management Officer at UN-Habitat’s Youth Unit and Livelihood Unit.

In her keynote speech, Emine Bozkurt, former Dutch member of the European Parliament and daughter of Turkish immigrants, reported how the situation in the Netherlands changed since the arrival of her parents in the 1970s. “Back then, my family was welcomed with music and joy, as labor force was desperately needed.”

In contrast, today European politics seek to discourage people from entering the European territory. Behind this agenda, the stories, wishes, hopes and desperations of individual youth fade away. Migrants are regarded as an anonymous part of a mass phenomenon.

This approach dehumanizes  individuals’ need labeling third and fourth generation migrants as foreigners in their home country. To overcome this situation, Mrs. Bozkurt highlighted the importance of creating opportunities for migrants to participate in civil service positions to contribute in serving the society.. She also indicated that “Ownership, participation, dialogue and creating a sense of belonging are key components to fostering a welcoming spirit among host communities to migrants.

For many communities, an unexpected increase of newcomers often creates new challenges, especially when it comes to spatial integration. In his research, Professor Frank Eckardt from the Bauhaus University Weimar focuses on the spatial integration of refugees and migrants in urban areas.Professor Frank Eckardt identifies three options for city planners to create sufficient housing:

1 Build own houses for refugees; 2) Build new houses in socially diverse areas and provide space for refugees and the local population; 3) Integrate refugees in existing social housing structures.

All options are practiced in Germany, however, Eckardt identified five factors that are crucial for their success:

1) Access to education; 2) A good learning and playing environment for children; 3) An environment that provides emotional support and social control – for young migrants, families often provide this environment; 4) A concentration of migrations in one area must be socially and culturally accepted by the neighbors. Eckardt warns to place migrants in areas with a strong history of xenophobia; finally,
5) The community must identify positive role models, communicate success stories of migrants or refugees and show that a successful integration benefits the community as a whole.

Ahmed Ulla, a young Rohingya-Canadian, shifted the attention from practical guidelines for integration to the challenges he faced when becoming a refugee himself. He grew up in a rich household in Myanmar, but became a refugee when his family was forced to flee to Bangladesh when their life came under threat.

With his father killed, his mother traumatized and all the family possessions lost, his life turned upside down. Fortunately, in 2009 he was resettled to Canada and had the opportunity to start over.

Ahmed Ulla gave insight into the feelings and challenges he faced when he arrived in Canada. He did not know the language and he entered a society, whose way of life he had never imaged to exist nor to have. But, he wanted to take the opportunity he received and build up a new life for himself – with success. Today, he has become an active member in his community. When hundreds of thousands of Rohingya flew Myanmar in August 2017, he launched a campaign in Canada to raise awareness to the situation of his fellow Rohingya in Myanmar and Bangladesh and called upon the Canadian Government to step up and help the Rohingya people. The Canadian Government agreed to match every dollar raised.

Kader Sevinç, member of the Turkish CHP and the European Socialists and Democrat’s presidency, underscored the need for richer countries to step up their support for the millions of migrants that are living under severe conditions in many developing countries. “Especially Europe should do more to support the three million migrants in Turkey and the refugees suffering in Libyan camps,” said Kader Sevinç She called for a more active debate in the European public about the responsibility Europeans have to support people in need. She emphasized the need for more local and national government to reject the anti-migration populism that has led to a severe restriction of refugee’s opportunities to find support in Europe and for non-Western migrants to integrate in European societies.

“The aggressive debate about refugees and immigrants that has taken hold of European politics in the last years has led to distinction between “good” and “bad” migrants in the last years,” said Jonas Freist-Held, European representative in the Youth Advisory Board of UN-Habitat adding that “the rights of refugees (e.g. the right to family reunification) have been restricted in the past two years and measures to prevent refugees from crossing Europe’s external borders increased throughout the last two years. At the same time, migrants that do not qualify for asylum have been discredited and labelled as criminals that illegally entered the European Union. Whereas refugees are considered as “good”, because their reasons to come to Europe are considered as legitimate by most people, irregularly arriving migrants have been labelled as “bad” as their reasons to come to Europe are considered illegitimate. This distinction has been enforced by the public debate and political decisions and created an atmosphere of hostility against many people that come to Europe in hope for a better future. “

The individual stories, wishes or hopes of human beings have become irrelevant. This climate poses a challenge to integrate migrants and refugees at the community level. Especially for young migrants, it is difficult to become an active community member in a society that is hostile to their presence.

The different inputs and discussions highlighted what stereotypes and prejudices migrants face, what needs and hopes they have and what impact the public debate has on the capability of communities to successfully integrate newcomers.

To successfully integrate migrants and refugees at the local level, essential challenges such as housing, language, education and labor market participation have were addressed. The panel discussion provided a platform to share different experiences that are relevant to develop policies and activities that facilitate the integration of (young) migrants and refugees in cities at this time when UN-Habitat advocates to #LeaveNoOneBehind.


Football Pitch Make-over through Design Thinking

A lot was happening in Mlango Kubwa’s football pitch last week. Mlango Kubwa is a ward in the Mathare informal settlement in Kenya. Mathare has approximately 500,000 residence; Mango Kubwa itself has approximately 50,000 residents of which 70% of the population is 24 and under.

After its inauguration by the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Antonio Guterres, it became the centerpiece of Design Thinking workshop organized to give it a sustainable make-over.


The football pitch is the cornerstone of the community, strategically placed and accessible for all Mlango Kubwa’s residents. Used primary for football, sport and play, at times it’s also a place for talent shows, celebrations and other community events. But time, weather conditions and lack of resources have left a toll on its appearance and condition. What was once an astonishing sport facility in the midst of a slum is now rapidly deteriorating public space.


To try to help out and bring new ideas and perspectives on the issue, UN-HABITAT teamed up with GIZ Sport for Development Africa programme and Prof. Dr. Falk Uebernickel from University of St. Gallen, an expert in Design Thinking methodology, to run a 2-day workshop with the community. Ran as a pilot in a difficult context of poor urban community, the hope and expectation was to come up with new strategies to revitalize and sustainably maintain the field.


Despite slow start, the community members attending the workshop came up with some amazing ideas of how to improve the current state of the pitch.  Through rather complex and at times quite challenging steps of the Design Thinking methodology, the community looked at the most pressing issues, including safety and security, drainage, waste management and communication. Here are just few examples of simple interventions that were born that day:

  • Adequate fence around the pitch perimeter, with some kind of roofing to protect from rains
  • Paid caretaker(s)
  • Build-in drainage
  • Regular clean-ups, with competitions between school
  • WhatsApp group to inform the community of events and happenings at/around the pitch


Funding remains a challenge and will determine the successful implementation of all the ideas that the community envisioned for the football pitch but everyone remains hopeful that over time, they will achieve everything what they set themselves for. UN-HABITAT will continue to support the Mlango Kubwa community and hope that together we can make it happen.

Historical first – Children propose solutions for inclusive and smart cities at Children & Youth Assembly, Habitat III

“We are a technology savvy generation and we can be a powerful resource to city authorities. We have skills and information that can support efficiency and sustainability in the city,” stated 15-year-old representative from World Vision’s Mexico program.

Over 100 children and adolescents from Ecuador, El Salvador, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Brazil, India and Indonesia; from local, regional and global child and youth serving agencies gathered at the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development in Quito, Ecuador to identify issues, priorities and recommendations for the implementation of the New Urban Agenda. As a historical first, children and adolescent voices were included in the Habitat III process starting with the launch of the Children and Youth Assembly on 15th October during the conference. The Assembly aimed to provide a formal platform for our current citizens and future leaders to propose solutions that can contribute to smart and inclusive cities for children that are just, safe, healthy and prosperous; that leave no one behind.

Several activities were organized during the day for children and adolescents to express their views on issues surrounding their rights to healthy and safe public spaces, access to quality education and health services, and protection from violence and their right to genuine participation mechanisms in city planning and budgeting processes.

Among the activities of the day, a training session ‘Map my city’ was organized to discuss the use of technology for improved understanding of city issues by children and youth (aged 14-16) participating in the Assembly. The training session delivered by Spatial Collective presented a case study of mapping by youth in one of the largest slums of Nairobi, Kibera. Children and youth saw how technology can fill in the gaps in information and secondary data used by city authorities. They learned about the technologies available to capture primary data that could become a resource for governments and influence planning and budgeting.

“The collection of primary data is fundamental to addressing urban dynamism and changing context. Information collected on a regular basis could transform the perception of communities about their well-being and predict issues that could be affecting them in the short and long term. This information once collected on a regular basis is a powerful tool for advocacy by young people to propose solutions for services and equity, said Doug Ragan, Chief of Youth Unit, UN-Habitat. Spatial Collective then presented an example of the application of mapping software from Pitney Bowes, a software company that leads in location and Spatial intelligence, provided visuals that are interactive maps that capture data on a real time basis.
Children and adolescents from cities of El Salvador, Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Brazil, India and Indonesia enthusiastically explained the issues in their respective cities, the realities of their contexts, the communities and informal settlements that remain invisible to local government, the issue of informal authorities such as gangs that make rules; waste, lack of playgrounds, green and walkable spaces. They were keen to explore these technologies in their cities.

There was consensus in the room that the government bodies responsible for data collection are often poorly resourced, with inconsistent data collection approaches. On the other hand, data collection and input by communities themselves can generate rich and useful information that complements conventional data collection methods and address such knowledge gaps. This is especially true for children and youth being a technology-savvy young generation. Young people said they are eager to contribute to well- being, equity and prosperity in the city. They can be are a key resource and agent of change to drive positive transformation in the city and a critical resource in creating smarter communities and shaping an inclusive and sustainable future.  Spatial Collective representatives explained how “you can turn a mobile phone into a very effective data collection tool that helps produce maps of issues in a city”. “Through mapping technology we can bring children and youth like you to the same table with governments”.

With the problem of data on children’s well-being and extreme poverty experienced in urban slum communities being obscured by the relative affluence of their neighboring communities, locally generated information that can benefit key decision makers within local and municipal governments to inform the direction of policies, programmes and resources is a critical need. For cities to be inclusive and smart, all urban dwellers, especially the most vulnerable and marginalised, must be able to participate in and interact with data collection and analysis that contribute to cities that are people-centred and reflect the collective intelligence of its communities.

The “Map my City” session highlighted the importance of public-private partnerships and a multi-disciplinary approach to urban solutions applying the principle of complementarity to promote the implementation of the New Urban Agenda. It is increasingly evident that no single actor can unilaterally achieve the type of large-scale transformational change necessary to create cities where children and youth thrive. Technology is critical to transform cities to smart and efficient hubs and the business sector who have the expertise, resources, power, technology, knowledge, influence and innovation need to come on board for sustainable cities of the future.

About the Author


Joyati Das is the Senior Director for Urban Programs at World Vision International. In 2008, Joyati designed and launched the organisation’s Urban Programs Initiative, a multi-country action research initiative across select World Vision field offices which resulted in World Vision’s flagship urban report, Making sense of the city, 2016. Its success has led to the scaling up of World Vision’s Global Urban Program that continues to develop measurable, scalable and effective interventions that are locally led, respond to urban dynamism and provide evidence to strengthen global policies and frameworks.

With Masters in Sociology and Communications, Joyati brings 25 years of experience in diverse sectors including corporate, government and non-government organizations. She has contributed to several media and journal articles highlighting issues of vulnerabilities and children’s rights in the city. Joyati represents World Vision International as Co-Chair of the Children and Youth Constituent Group for the General Assembly of Partners, for Habitat III. She is also on the advisory board of the UN Global Cities Institute, and an elected standing committee member of UN-Habitat’s World Urban Campaign.

Itinerant Tactical Urbanism Laboratories: Making the city

Within the framework of Habitat III which will take place in a few days in the city of Quito, it is important to mention all activities, ideas and alternative proposals that are emerging in the city. Itinerant Tactical Urbanism Laboratories (LIUTS), is a proposal made in two neighborhoods of Quito; Santa Clara and Pisulí for three days in August this year. Organized within the framework of YoutHab Conference, which represents a platform for exchange of ideas of young people and their rights with respect to the city, these workshops are an example of the good initiatives that are being born by young Ecuadorians.

The workshops were designed as an urban experiment, which sought to involve different actors in the city, such as public institutions, community and students of architecture. The neighborhood of Santa Clara, which represents an emblematic area of Quito and which has as main problems the lack of street furniture, little urban aesthetics and is unfriendly to pedestrians, two locations were selected. In parallel, another sector with different characteristics such as neighborhood Pisulí was chosen. Here, insecurity, lack of public space and minimal support from public bodies, has generated strong social cohesion by the inhabitants, who are the managers of all changes of public space. At the same time, they involved two universities; Central University of Ecuador, with the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism and the University of the Americas with the Faculty of Architecture and Design, with the aim that students propose urban strategies on a small scale neighborhood. 120 proposals for the two sectors were presented. Following this, 57 proposals were selected, the students socialized and checked them and their viability.

During weeks prior to workshops, the students and teachers conducted socialization and modifications to proposals based on agreements with the community and the available materials. For example, in the case of Pisulí, the “Café de Barrio”, which aimed to encourage and share with the people on community participation in urban processes and sustainable mobility was made. In addition, during this period other entities involved as CEILING ECUADOR supported by volunteers for the days of the workshops in Pisulí.

During work days the proposals were developed. In the case of Pisulí, the community agreed with the arrangement of the main access to public areas and urban furniture with car tires that villagers collected. In the case of Santa Clara, students at the Central University represent the community who live day to day the sector. They made changes in urban aesthetics industry, messages against harasses the pedestrians and street furniture in the central square. During the workshops he was visited by delegates from the United Nations Organization who visibilizaron the implementation of the proposals.

The workshops included the first urban experiment of this type by the organizers. Its main objective sought to generate the appropriation of the community in public space. Understand that we live in community in our city and that small interventions can be the first step to great changes, it is already a goal that was reached with all participants. In addition, for students; leave the academic framework and confront their users, a minimum budget and manage their projects, he generated them their first professional experience. Beyond all acquired knowledge, the sharing with other people from different social strata and thoughts, opens the consciousness to understand our duty to interaction in the city and at the same time, this can go hand in hand with the help communities that are lacking urban infrastructure.

Maria Padilla Amanda R.

Instagram: amandamaria82 Twitter: @YoutHABconf

Laboratorios Itinerantes de Urbanismo Táctico: Haciendo ciudad

Dentro del marco del Hábitat III que se llevará a cabo en pocos días en la Ciudad de Quito, es importante mencionar todas las actividades, ideas y propuestas alternas que están surgiendo en la ciudad. Los Laboratorios Itinerantes de Urbanismo Táctico LIUTS, es una propuesta realizada en dos barrios de Quito; Santa Clara y Pisulí, durante tres días en Agosto de este año. Organizada dentro del marco de YoutHab Conference, que representa una plataforma de intercambio de ideas de jóvenes y sus derechos con respecto a la ciudad, estos talleres son un ejemplo más de las buenas iniciativas que están naciendo por parte de jóvenes ecuatorianos.

Los talleres fueron concebidos como un experimento urbano, el cual buscaba involucrar a diferentes actores de la ciudad, tales como entidades públicas, la comunidad y estudiantes de arquitectura. Se seleccionaron dos locaciones: El barrio de Santa Clara, el cual representa una zona emblemática de Quito y el cual tiene como problemas principales la carencia de mobiliario urbano, poca estética urbana y es poco amigable con el peatón. Paralelamente, se eligió otro sector con diferentes características como es el barrio de Pisulí. Aquí, la inseguridad, falta de espacio público y el mínimo apoyo de las entidades públicas, ha generado una cohesión social fuerte por parte de los moradores, quienes son los gestores de todos los cambios del espacio público. Al mismo tiempo, se involucraron a dos universidades; la Universidad Central del Ecuador, con la Facultad de Arquitectura y Urbanismo y la Universidad de las Américas con la facultad de Arquitectura y Diseño, con el objetivo de que sus estudiantes propongan estrategias urbanas a una escala pequeña de barrio. Se presentaron 120 propuestas para los dos sectores. Posterior a esto, se seleccionaron 57 propuestas, los y las alumnas socializaron las mismas y verificaron su viabilidad.

Durante semanas previas a los talleres, los y las estudiantes y profesoras realizaron la socialización y modificaciones a las propuestas en base a los acuerdos con la comunidad y los materiales disponibles. Por ejemplo, en el caso de Pisuli, se realizó el “Café de Barrio”, el cual tuvo como objetivo incentivar y compartir con los pobladores sobre la participación de la comunidad dentro de los procesos urbanos y la movilidad sostenible. Además, en este período otras entidades se involucraron como TECHO ECUADOR con el apoyo de voluntarios para los días de los talleres en Pisulí.

Durante los días de trabajo se desarrollaron las propuestas. En el caso de Pisulí, se acordó con la comunidad el arreglo de la vía principal de acceso a áreas públicas y mobiliario urbano con llantas de automóviles que los pobladores recolectaron. En el caso de Santa Clara, los estudiantes de la Universidad Central representan a la comunidad que viven el día al día el sector. Ellos realizaron cambios en la estética urbana del sector, mensajes en contra del acosa a las peatonas y mobiliario urbano en la plaza central. Durante los talleres se contó con la visita de delegados de la Organización de las Naciones Unidas quienes visibilizaron la ejecución de las propuestas.

Los talleres comprendieron el primer experimento urbano de este tipo por parte de los organizadores. Su principal objetivo buscó generar el apropiamiento de la comunidad en el espacio público. Entender que vivimos en colectividad en nuestra ciudad y que pequeñas intervenciones pueden ser el primer paso para grandes cambios, es ya un objetivo que se alcanzó con todos los participantes. Además, para los estudiantes; salir del marco académico y enfrentarse a sus usuarios, a un presupuesto mínimo y la gestión de sus proyectos, les generó su primera experiencia profesional. Más allá de todo el conocimiento adquirido, el hecho de compartir con otras personas de diferentes estratos sociales y pensamientos, abre la conciencia para que entendamos nuestro deber con la interacción en la ciudad y que al mismo tiempo, esta puede ir de la mano con la ayuda de comunidades que tienen carencias de infraestructura urbana.

María Amanda Padilla R.

Instagram: amandamaria82 Twitter: @YoutHABconf

La Super Urbana llegó a Quito para quedarse

¿Cuándo fue la última vez que la ciudad te hizo feliz? ¿Qué responderías a esta pregunta, si tuvieras frente a ti, una cabina hecha de madera y tela, en la cual te encuentras con una cámara que puede tomar todas las horas de video para que lo respondas?

Domingo a domingo, en la ciudad de Quito-Ecuador, las calles se cierran para dar pasos a los ciclistas con el Ciclopaseo. Con esta actividad la dinámica capitalina cambia por completo; podríamos decir que la ciudad se convierte en un lugar un poco mas humano e inclusivo. Este domingo 2 de octubre no fue la exepción, los peatones y ciclistas vivieron una mañana muy concurrida en un punto específico de la ciudad y de la ruta del Ciclopaseo: El Arco de La Circasiana, ubicado en el Parque el Ejido, uno de los espacios públicos más grandes con los que cuenta la ciudad pero posiblemente uno de los menos utilizados.

El movimiento en este punto se debía al Lanzamiento del YoutHAB Conference, conferencia que unirá a cientos de jóvenes de todas partes del mundo para realizar la Declaratoria de Jóvenes frente a la Nueva Agenda Urbana a definirse en el Habitat III Conference. Los jóvenes voluntarios de la conferencia dieron la bienvenida a un nuevo personaje que llegó para cambiar el concepto y la dinámica de ciudad en el espacio público: Super Urbana, soprendió a los capitalinos ecuatorianos con una simple pregunta ¿Cuándo fue la última vez que la ciudad te hizo feliz?. Mucha gente que pasaba por el parque El Ejido (lugar donde se realizaó el evento de lanzamiento) entraba a la Super Urbana con gran curiosidad, como si se tratáse de una cpasula del tiempo, sin embargo al momento de responder la pregutna, las personas salían muy contentas, otras enojadas, hubo personas que hasta salieron de la cabina con lágrimas en los ojos. Quizás esto es lo que provoca la ciudad, una mezcla de emociones con las cuales se debe vivir el día a día.

Para continuar con el día se debatieron temas vinvulados con las dinámicas de la ciuadad generando expectativa y cuestionamiento sobre: género, LGBT, hábitat Village, urbanismo táctico, construcción sostenible, movilidad, agricultura urbana, vivienda adecuada, discapacidad y empleo juvenil, accesibilidad universal, migración, reciclaje, vínculo urbano rural. Jóvenes, adultos y niños de todas partes de la ciudad aportaron con la Super Urbana, evidenciando que: a pesar de los problemas que enfrenta la ciudad aún hay cosas de la misma que nos siguen haciendo felices y que mientras más nos activamos generamos mayor cohesión social.

La Super Urbana pretende visibilizar las problemáticas sociales en los jóvenes ecuatorianos y extranjeros que participarán en la confenrencia del YoutHAB. Estamos a la expectativa de cuál será la siguinete pregunta que nos traerá este personaje. ¡Sigue al YoutHAB Conference y entérate de lo nuevo de Super Urbana durante los días de conferencia!

María Belén Calderón

@artenbiciuio / instagram

Super Urban Arrived in Quito and it’s Here to Stay

When was the last time the city made you happy? What would you answer, if you were to sit in a video booth – made of fabric and wood – with infinite filming capacity?

From Sunday to Sunday, in Quito, Ecuador, the streets will be closed to car traffic and opened to cyclists with Ciclopaseo. This dynamic activity will to transform the capital. The city will be more human, more inclusive. Sunday, 2nd October 2016 was no exception, pedestrians and cyclists commuted during a busy morning through The Arch of the Circassian, Ejido Park, one of city’s largest public spaces and on the Ciclopaseo route.

The activity formed part of the launch of YoutHAB Conference, which will bring together hundreds of young people from across the globe to endorse the Youth Declaration in the frame of the New Urban Agenda to be ratified at the Habitat III Conference. Young conference volunteers welcomed Super Urbana (video booth), which surprised the capital with questions to transform the concept and dynamism of city public spaces. The Super Urbana video booths asked the question: When was the last time your city made you happy? People passing through El Ejido Park (where the launch event took place) approached the booth with curiosity, as if it were a time capsule; responds were mixed, some people were happy, others angry, others left in tears. Perhaps this is exactly what the city is, a mix of lived emotions we face on a daily basis.

As the day unfolded, issues relating to the dynamics of cities were debated and included themes relating to gender equality, LGBTI, the habitat Village, urban planning, sustainable construction, mobility, urban agriculture, adequate housing, disability and youth employment, universal accessibility, migration, recycling, and urban-rural linkages. Youth, adults and children from across the city contributed to the Super Urbana, showing that: despite the problems faced in the city, there are still elements that continue to make us happy in the city and the more active we are the more social cohesion we generate.

Super Urbana endeavours to bring to light the social challenges faced by Ecuadorian and foreign Youth alike during the YoutHAB conference. We are waiting to see what the next question will be from this video booth. Follow the YoutHAB Conference and learn about the Super Urbana!

Maria Belen Calderon

@artenbiciuio / instagram

Launching #UrbanAction in Quito

In October 2016, the world leaders and representatives of the member states will gather in Quito, Ecuador to adopt the New Urban Agenda, a brand new road map to deal with all urban issues and a guide to achieving SDGs particularly in the urban context. For the first time in history, young people were recognized as stakeholders in the drafting process and are frequently referred to throughout the document. That is why UN-HABITAT wants young people to be placed in the front line of the action that will follow. Acknowledging young people’s enormous potential and capacity, UN-HABITAT works with top global youth networks to ensure that Quito marks the beginning of the youth “#UrbanAction”.


What is #Urban Action?

#UrbanAction is a global campaign calling on young people to actively engage in positive urban development. Youth groups, organizations and individuals alike will be encouraged to design and develop #UrbanAction projects in their city that build on the commitments outlined in the New Urban Agenda, and positively contribute to achieving one (or more) of the SDGs. We aim to implement over 150 youth projects related to New Urban Agenda and SDGs within the first year of NUA adoption.


Why Youth?

Youth represent an essential and dynamic resource. Globally, 85% of the world’s young people live in developing countries and ever-increasing number of them is growing up in cities. We have the largest youth population ever – 1.8 billion young people are below 24 years of age. This is not a small number and as such, youth should be brought on-board as partners and assets.

Youth participation and engagement is the cornerstone of the #UrbanAction, empowering them to increase their level of engagement in local governance and activate their participation in sustainable urban development activities socially, politically and economically. Sustainable development cannot be achieved without significantly transforming the way we build and manage our urban spaces. The success lies in participatory and inclusive approaches that leave no-one behind.


While Quito will mark the launch of the #Urban Action, with first few project ideas implemented, the real work comes after Habitat III is over. Coordinated through the AIESEC international network and other partners, youth all over the world will commit and implement their #UrbanAction projects in their cities, in line with the New Urban Agenda and one (or more) of the SDGs. Join #UrbanAction today!

Using Sport as Vehicle to 2030

On Friday August 12th, UN-HABITAT in collaboration with Nexus Brasil hosted a high-level event to discuss the power of sport to drive social change, especially in regards to youth and SDGs. It was a very successful evening, full of inspiring guests and touching stories that left no-one behind (in the spirit of the UN!). We were not only celebrating the beautiful Olympic Games but also the International Youth Day that falls on August 12th as young people are the cornerstones in this agenda.


Mr. Stephan Fox, the former Muaythai world champions and the current president of AIMS (Alliance of Independent Recognized Members of Sport, representing 23 international federations), vice-president of SportAccord and General Secretary of IFMA (International Federation of Muaythai Amateur) opened the event with his power story of how he works with Muaythai, Thailand’s national treasure, on number of socially responsible initiatives. Using the core values of Muaythai, they work with underprivileged kids to develop their self-confidence, respect and honor and help them grow into their full potential.


“Respect is key when training in muaythai. You should respect and honor your teacher, opponents, training partners and community. This message we translate to the everyday life” (Mr. Stephan Fox)


The first Roundtable looked at sport as a tool for peacebuilding, conflict resolution and countering violence. Three very special guests, Mr. Duran Farah (Head of Somali NOC), Mr. Hossam Hassan Gadou (lecturer at Behna university, Egypt) and Rafael F. Luciano (Founder of Artists 2 Advocates) shared their experiences from three very different contexts and angles. The case of Somalia is very unique. It is a country at war for past 25 years and counting, where illiteracy is higher than 62%, where children and young people and especially women have very little opportunities to socialize or to play sports as it is not high enough on political agenda. Yet history has proven that sport is the connector between conflicting groups and is the only thing that is universally liked and appreciated throughout the country.


“We don’t have enough spaces for young people to play. Especially for young women that need adequate and safe space it is a challenge. Sport is the only thing that remained, the only institution that has not failed, yet there is no money and no support to develop more spaces for young people to practice. We need to work with international partners to rebuild our cities that will provide for everybody, especially for our youth that makes up 75% of our population. That includes building a sufficient sports infrastructure”. (Mr. Duran Farah)

Rafael works closely with one of America’s top Olympian, Ms. Sanya Richards Ross on addressing the rising issue of violence in the US. They are also huge supporters of Team Refugees. Artist 2 Advocates are using media to connect the right influencers with the right cause.

The second Roundtable examine the positive and negative sides of hosting these mega sport events. Since Sydney Olympics in 2000, it is mandatory for bidding cities to include the element of sustainability and make it part of their application package. Often they make fantastic plans of how the infrastructure will be build and renewed, how it’d going to generate more business for local small-entrepreneurs and how the newly built sporting complexes will serve the children and youth from the neighborhood to come and play. The reality, however, is often very different. And nowhere is it more visible than Rio. Carolina Caffe was looking at this element already in the run up to the Games. She shot this powerful documentary to bring the truth to the light.

While this is truly heartbreaking, we need to realize all the positive things mega sports are bringing with them. Like a magic, the city turns into multicultural party where everyone is welcome. Friendships and bonds made during the Games often last for decades. It does bring some tourists in (maybe not as many as predicted) which they happily buy snack or soda from a corner stall.


“There are many positive and negative effects of hosting a sport mega event. We have to make sure to minimize the negative and maximize the positive. There are success stories from the past of cities benefited and transformed to thriving hubs yet we need to be more strategic to achieve that” (Mr. Hossam Hassan Gadou)


The last roundtable was all about the local experiences. Michelle from Instituto Reacao came and showed us the incredible story of Rafaela Silva, who not only raised through their Judo programme, she actually won the gold medal in Judo. Flavio Canto, former Brazilian judo professional, and the founder of Instituto Reacao was her role model who won his bronze medal in Athens. Rafaela stood on the winners’ podium to receive her gold just last week. Mr. Zaremba, a professor at one of Rio’s top universities, psychologists and most importantly, well-known social entrepreneur paid us visit too. His team works with only young ladies and trains them in basketball. The last panelist, Mr. Gabriel Mayr works for URECE, a social enterprise working with blind people in football.

“The challenge on the ground is money. We have enough manpower, all volunteers, we have wonderful programmes but not enough money to pay for it. We struggle to operate, year by year, which makes it difficult for us, but for the young people that actually love and enjoy our programmes” (Mr. Gabriel Mayr)

The event was a first step to start a network of people working on different levels in sport, philanthropy and social entrepreneurship to find new ways of how to use the knowledge and experience to build upon these and contribute to achieving SDGs, especially Goal 11. We need to build more spaces for young people to play that will be accessible, affordable and safe and make sure that the positive impact of hosting mega sport events on cities outweighs the negative. Let’s work together to make it happen!



Visit to Mathare by Youth Envoy


Great to see  to the Secretary General, visiting once again the  Mathare Environmental Conservation Youth Group (M.E.C.Y.G). As he states, some huge leaps forward in services at the centre with the the development of the ‪‎Innovate‬ Kenya‬ ICT and Entrepenruship programs, the great work of the iHub – Nairobi’s Innovation Hub and their Kio Kits, the continued focus on public space and football, and of course the indomitable spirit of the Mathare community and its youth!!!

On Friday July 22nd, the United Nations Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi joined UN-Habitat and the Mathare Environmental Conservation Youth Group (M.E.C.Y.G) to check the youth-led projects in Mlango Kubwa community in Mathare. It was his second visit of this community and he was very impressed to see the progress the youth center made since 2014.


Mlango Kubwa community lies at the periphery of one of Nairobi’s biggest slums. Like everywhere else, young people face many challenges there, from access to safe spaces to access to resources and opportunities. What distinguish them from others though is their drive, enthusiasm and willingness to strive for change. They take no chances and work together to make their community a better place for all, but especially for the children and young people.


We were equally inspired and enchanted by the spirit of this youth. After we saw how they claimed burned-down space in the middle of their community, negotiated with authorities and built their first ever community football field with minimum resources and their hard work, we couldn’t not work with them. We wanted to support them so they can carry on their fantastic work and offer more opportunities for young people to grow in healthy environments.


With the help of Samsung, we built a fully equipped ICT center that offers not only access to internet, but access to knowledge. As part of our Innovate Kenya project, UN-HABITAT and its academic partners developed a series of E-learning courses that come with the Samsung donated equipment. There are number of courses on offer, including project management, marketing or urban agriculture.


Envoy’s visit to Mlango Kubwa meant a lot for the local youth, as well as for all of us who tagged along. It was great to watch how they presented their achievements with pride. It was even more touching to hear Envoy’s words of admiration and appreciation at the end.

Keep it up guys!